[26 September 2008]
Gorgeous melodies adorn this album of country-tinged classical sounds and philosophical concerns. The Low Anthem is known to Rolling Stone and NPR for their earlier record What The Crow Brings. If we are tempted to hold that against them, we shouldn’t, as here again they achieve the difficult task of writing simple, memorable songs on which uncluttered vocals survive harsh examination. Themes of decay and time intermingle with images of travel over water to new horizons and snapshots of floods. The instrumentation is subtle and extremely varied. “Charlie Darwin” and “To Ohio” are sublime pieces with gentle, breezy voices melding together, floating away, and carrying warnings of decline. For contrast, “The Horizon Is a Beltway” lands unapologetically between the Old Testament blare of Tom Waits and the celebratory instincts of The Pogues.
Oh My God, Charlie Darwin is a lovely self-release in a beautiful homemade sleeve from a group who can really play. The key quieter pieces “Ticket Takers” and “To the Ghosts Who Write History Books” could have been written years ago in preparation for crisis or sent here from years ahead to document a tragedy. This release is nuanced, prescient, melodic, and stirring. Now a trio, The Low Anthem suggests that when money is worthless and demons no longer scare us we will still clamor for songs of comfort and inspiration. Maybe not even God can cage the songbird.